Burgundy ‘will drive stability and demand’

16th January, 2014 by Gabriel Stone

Despite a third consecutive small harvest and difficult growing conditions, Burgundy 2012 remains a more stable proposition than Bordeaux, according to Corney & Barrow managing director Adam Brett-Smith.

BurgundySpeaking to the drinks business at the merchant’s 2012 Burgundy en primeur tasting in London this week, he highlighted the small price increases in evidence despite many producers reporting yields of almost half their average size.

“With responsible growers the impact has been negligible, maybe 0-10 or 15%,” said Brett-Smith of the price changes in 2012.

In contrast to the volatile pricing situation in Bordeaux, which has resulted in a number of older vintages being available to buy for similar or even lower prices than younger wines from the same château, Brett-Smith said of Burgundy: “I don’t think that’ll ever happen.

“The Burgundians are more rooted and cautious than the Bordelais and we know that the quantities are absurd, customers understand that too, so both will drive stability and demand,” he explained.

Drawing a further comparison with Bordeaux, Brett-Smith remarked: “The market theatre isn’t as compelling as Bordeaux but the practical side of the relationships is exciting.” In particular, he highlighted the growing importance for Corney & Barrow of cultivating exclusive relationships with top producers.

In the UK Corney & Barrow’s most high profile exclusive Burgundy agency is Domaine de la Romanée Conti but it is also the sole representative of Marquis D’Angerville in Singapore. Among its most recent exclusive additions is Domaine François Carillon two years ago following the division of Domaine Louis Carillon Père & Fils into two separate entities.

“We really love putting great or about to be great wines on a pedestal and giving them 100% attention,” said Brett Smith, adding: “We never make a move on anyone unless we think we can do a better job.”

As for the critical reaction to the quality of 2012, Brett-Smith suggested that opinions had improved considerably since the harvest. “Having been dismissed very early on by third party commentators, there’s been a big volte-face in opinion,” he observed. “In fact many now have over-egged it in the other direction.”

Certainly among consumers, he pointed to high demand for Burgundy 2012, saying: “I hope I’m not being too premature but I think we’ll have no problem selling this vintage.”

In contrast to a decade ago, Brett-Smith noted a significant part of this demand for Burgundy as now coming from Asian markets, where Corney & Barrow currently has a team of 16 people spread across Hong Kong and Singapore.

Recalling the merchant’s early days in Hong Kong when it first opened an office there 17 years ago and even as recently as 12 years ago when it took on the Hong Kong agency for Domaine Leflaive, Brett-Smith said: “Hong Kong was difficult and white wine especially was not so easy.”

However, following “a lot of legwork and masterclasses,” he reported: “In the last five to seven years it has started to pay off. Since then the problem has been in allocating and doing that in a way that doesn’t upset people.”

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